No press conference was held, but Dr Muscat tweeted that “we are an energetic government and will continue to deliver”.
Tourism Minister Karmenu Vella will be nominated for the post of EU Commissioner and will no longer remain part of the Cabinet. He will eventually replace EU Commissioner for Health, Dr Tonio Borg, when the latter’s term expires in November, and be Malta’s nominee for a position on the new EU Commission to be set up after this year’s European Parliamentary elections to be held in May.
Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi was also handed responsibility for the Health portfolio (replacing Dr Godfrey Farrugia who had resigned) with Chris Fearne as parliamentary secretary for health.
Dr Michael Farrugia, who had been responsible for MEPA and the simplification of administrative procedures, was appointed Social Policy Minister with Gozitan MP Dr Justyne Caruana as parliamentary secretary for disabled and elderly persons, replacing another Gozitan Mr Franco Mercieca, who had resigned.
Dr Edward Zammit Lewis, until now parliamentary secretary in the economy ministry, was appointed Tourism Minister, replacing Mr Karmenu Vella.
Dr Owen Bonnici has been promoted to Justice and Local Government Minister with Dr Stefan Buontempo, until now responsible for research, innovation and sports, moving on tp the post of parliamentary secretary for local councils.
Dr Michael Falzon is parliamentary secretary responsible for planning in the Office of the Prime Minister.
Chris Agius is parliamentary secretary for research, innovation and sports, replacing Dr Buontempo.
Dr Jose Herrera moves away from culture and is now parliamentary secretary for competition and economic growth.
Carmelo Abela will be the official government spokesman while Tony Agius Decelis is commissioner against bureaucracy, replacing Michael Falzon.
The new positions will be effective as from 2 April, after the resignation of Marie Louise Coleiro Preca to become President.
The Cabinet is made up of 15 ministers and eight parliamentary secretaries, the same number as there was before. Some portfolios have been changed.
In all, four have moved out of the Cabinet to be replaced by another four, not necessarily in the same portfolio. Two parliamentary secretaries have been promoted to ministers, while another two have had their responsibilities changed.
The full Cabinet is as follows:
- Office of the Prime Minister – Prime Minister: Dr Joseph Muscat
- Parliamentary Secretary for Planning and Administrative Simplification: Dr Michael Falzon (new)
- Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for European Affairs and the implementation of the Electoral Manifesto: Mr Louis Grech
- Parliamentary Secretary for EU Presidency 2017 and European Funds: Dr Ian Borg
- Foreign Affairs Minister: Dr George Vella
- Education and Employment Minister: Mr Evarist Bartolo
- Parliamentary secretary for Research, Innovation, Youth and Sport: Mr Chris Agius (new)
- Sustainable Development, Environment, and Climate Change Minister: Mr Leo Brincat
- Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights: Mr Roderick Galdes
- Transport and Infrastructure Minister: Mr Joe Mizzi
- Gozo Minister: Dr Anton Refalo
- Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Rights Minister: Dr Helena Dalli
- Economy, Investment and Small Business Minister: Dr Christian Cardona
- Parliamentary secretary for Competition and Economic Growth: Dr Jose’ Herrera (changed portfolio)
- Home Affairs and National Security Minister: Dr Emanuel Mallia
- Finance Minister: Prof Edward Scicluna
- Energy and Health Minister: Dr Konrad Mizzi (additional portfolio)
- Parliamentary Secretary for Health: Dr Chris Fearne (new)
- Family and Social Solidarity Minister: Dr Michael Farrugia (promoted)
- Parliamentary Secretary for Disabled Persons and Elderly People’s rights: Dr Justyne Caruana (new)
Earlier in the day, Dr Godfrey Farrugia submitted his resignation as health minister in a letter to Dr Muscat, which was published on Facebook by his partner Marlene Farrugia, a fellow Labour MP, and Mr Mercieca had confirmed to timesofmalta.com that although he was still serving, he had informed Dr Muscat of his intention to resign “weeks ago”.
In his resignation letter, Dr Farrugia thanked the Prime Minister for offering him the post of Social Policy Minister but said he could not accept the position.
Yesterday afternoon he had a meeting with Dr Muscat at Girgenti which lasted more than an hour. According to timesofmalta.com, on coming out of the Palace just after 6pm, he looked shaken as he walked to a car some 800 metres a way where Ms Farrugia was waiting.
Mr Konrad Mizzi, who will be taking over the health portfolio responsibilities, was present for part of the meeting. He told journalists as he walked out of the Palace that he was very happy with his new responsibilities.
“There is a lot of work to do and the challenges are big…” He said these challenges were discussed during his meeting with Dr Muscat and Dr Farrugia and said he will be meeting Dr Farrugia for a handover soon. He said he was willing to work with all stakeholders.
In his letter to Dr Muscat, Dr Farrugia said that when he became Health Minister, he saw this as a golden opportunity to strengthen his services for the dignity and needs of patients and said he was convinced that in the year he had been in office he and his colleagues had created the basis for the sector to become sustainable.
Opposition leader Dr Simon Busuttil tweeted “Godfrey Farrugia’s resignation: Not a clean bill of health for Muscat’s one year old government.”
Mr Mercieca told timesofmalta.com that he retained his job as he had still not received a reply from the Prime Minister. He said he had also asked Dr Muscat not to consider him for the new Cabinet as his vocation was ophthalmology.
A family doctor in Zebbug, Dr Farrugia last April became emotional and shed some tears as he expressed his sadness at having had to give up his profession to serve as minister.
His one-year tenure was surrounded by controversy with the appointment by the Prime Minister of former EU Commissioner John Dalli to head a reform body within the administration of Mater Dei Hospital. Last January the Prime Minister ordered that a tent set up outside Mater Dei Hospital be removed. The tent was set up to house the hospital’s reception area in case of an influx of patients suffering from influenza.
Dr Farrugia started his political career in local councils and was repeatedly elected mayor Zebbug. He is president of various organisations.
Asked about resignation reports in February, Mr Mercieca was evasive and said he was serving as parliamentary secretary for the elderly and would continue to serve in that role until the prime minister felt otherwise. His appointment has been mired in controversy since an investigation by The Sunday Times of Malta last year found he was still conducting eye operations, earning €3,600 in a morning in breach of the Code of Ethics. The issue was later discussed between Mr Mercieca and the prime minister and Mr Mercieca agreed to continue to work free of charge at Mater Dei.
The Nationalist Party said in a statement that the resignations continued to uncover the bad qualities of Dr Muscat’s management style.
Even those who were close to him were now providing proof that Dr Muscat first used you then threw you away. This was what he did with Dr Farrugia and Mr Mercieca and what he had lso done with the residents of the south with his decision to anchor an LNG storage tank in Marsaxlokk Bay, the party said.
It said that not only did Dr Muscat put all imaginable spokes in the wheel for Dr Farrugia not to be able to implement his responsibilities as Health Minister, he also hid for several week Mr Mercieca’s resignation from Cabinet and the Maltese people.
A Prime Minister who hid from the people a Cabinet minister’s resignation was a Prime Minister who placed his political interests before respect towards the people he was leading.
Dr Muscat had promised the best Cabinet in Maltese history. After just a year, this was another promise from a series which had already evaporated, the PN said.
[Sources: independent.com.mt and timesofmalta.com]